4 Pierce County colleges aim to nurture local entrepreneurs

Four Pierce County universities and colleges are creating a network to nurture and train a new generation of local, young entrepreneurs.

The Tacoma College Entrepreneur Network will launch Sat., Nov. 5 at 10:30 a.m., with “Innovate! Create!,” a competition that will include students from University of Puget Sound, University of Washington Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University, and The Evergreen State College. The event will take place in University of Puget Sound’s Rasmussen Rotunda in Wheelock Student Center.

The competition will provide the kick-off for an entrepreneurship collaboration thought to be unique in the country, due to the involvement of several campuses within one community. The network aims to enable Tacoma’s college students to explore an entrepreneurial career path. The collaboration also will benefit Tacoma and Pierce County by encouraging a local culture of entrepreneurship and creating a community of diverse, young innovators who can help drive long-term economic health.

Student network members from the four institutions will be able to learn from practicing business leaders, experiment with entrepreneurship, work with mentors, and participate in activities that will build their confidence in their own abilities to turn ideas into practice.

Saturday’s kick-off with “Innovate! Create!” will assign participating students from Tacoma’s four-year institutions to teams and ask them to create a new business or nonprofit solution to a problem unveiled at the event. The teams will have three hours to create a solution, build a portfolio for the solution, and develop a pitch. Entrepreneur and investor judges will pick the winning team by considering each solution’s ability to solve the problem, its innovativeness, and the sustainability of the solution. Each member of the winning team will receive an iPad and runner-up teams will receive restaurant gift certificates.

The Tacoma College Entrepreneur Network will begin as a coalition of entrepreneurship clubs that will be established in January 2012 at each institution. Both student affairs and career services will be important partners. University of Puget Sound has provided leadership thus far and will continue to convene network activity.

The network is supported by Lynnette Claire, a Ph.D.-trained entrepreneurship professor at University of Puget Sound. Claire is launching the effort with the assistance of students from her courses in Applied Research Methods (fall 2010), Entrepreneurship (spring 2011), and Social Entrepreneurship (fall 2011). Faculty and staff on the four campuses will share expertise and coordinate the clubs’ efforts.

Funding from University of Puget Sound’s Nat S. and Marian W. Rogers Professorship and the Herbert B. Jones Foundation have supported this initiative.

For more information about the network or if you are a student who wishes to be involved in the launch challenge, join the Facebook site “Tacoma Entrepreneur Network: College Edition” or send an email to Professor Lynnette Claire at lclaire@pugetsound.edu .